The Love of Jesus in Instituting the Blessed Sacrament.
JESUS is all love. "Jesus," says St. Bernard, "is honey in my mouth, music in my ear, jubilation in my heart. Jesus fills the soul with sweetness and spiritual joy." Serm. xv. Jesus is our consolation in sorrow. He sweetens the bitterness of life. Jesus is everything to us our strength in life, our hope in death, our possession in heaven. When in sorrow or pain, Jesus is our balm; when in sin, he lifts us up; when in despair, he gently breathes hope; when in joy, it is Jesus that gladdens the heart; when dying, we hope "to fall asleep in the Lord." We have presumed to speak but how imperfectly! of the love of Jesus in the holy sacrifice of the Mass. We now attempt to treat of a subject not less holy, the love of Jesus in the holy sacrament of the altar.
How express the love of Jesus in the Holy Communion? To redeem man by shedding His precious blood, even to the last drop, did not satisfy the love of Jesus. To be a perpetual sacrifice daily on a thousand and more altars was not enough for the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. No; the souls of men are so dear to Him that He feeds and nourishes them with nothing less than His own precious body and blood! "Take ye and eat," says the Redeemer; "this is My, body." "Drink ye all of this; this is My blood." O infinite, incomprehensible love of Jesus for man! Let us meditate and think over and over again on this article of our holy faith: "That in the Blessed Eucharist are contained, really, truly, and substantially, the body and the blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ." Trent, Sess. xiii. 1, 2. In the holy communion we receive into our poor breasts the God that created us, the God that redeemed us, the God that will judge us; the very flesh that was born of Mary, that was nailed to the cross, and that is now glorified in heaven. O thanks to heaven for being a child of the one only true Church of Jesus Christ. With good reason did the holy Council of Trent add (Sess. xiii. c. 2): "That in the Holy Communion Christ poured forth all the treasures of his love towards men." And well might St. Augustine say, that "Jesus Christ, though an omnipotent God, has nothing more to give us." What more could he give us than Himself? If we all reflect on this, how ardently should we not love our blessed Lord?
Every circumstance connected with the institution of the Holy Communion shows a special mark of the tender love of Jesus for man. First, it was on the eve of His Passion. "Jesus," says St. John (ch. xiii. 1), "knowing that His hour was come that He should pass out of this world to His Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them unto the end."
When about to bid an everlasting adieu to those we love, our hearts melt to tenderness, and we bestow our best gifts as proofs of our affection. So it was with Jesus. The next day He was to die to bid farewell to those He loved His holy mother and dear disciples, His tender heart was touched; sorrow and love filled His soul. He allowed "the beloved" and virgin disciple, St. John, to recline his head on his divine bosom. At this solemn moment Jesus said: "With desire I have desired to eat this pasch with you before I suffer." Luke, xxii. 15. At this supreme moment the Redeemer raised His eyes to heaven, "took the bread, and blessed, and broke, and gave to His. disciples, and said: Take ye and eat. This is My body. And taking the chalice, Drink ye all of this. For this is My blood of the testament, which shall be shed for many to the remission of sins" (Matt., xxvi. 26); thus bequeathing to his friends a lasting legacy, which divine love alone could think of and bestow. St. Francis of Sales concludes, "that in no other action can the Saviour be considered more tender or more loving than in the institution of the Holy Eucharist; in which He, as it were, annihilates Himself, and becomes one of us, the bone of our bone, the flesh of our flesh." A God our food, a God our meat, a God our drink! With the prophet we may well exclaim: "Who ever heard of such a thing as this? Who ever saw anything like unto it! It is an admirable work." Isa., lxvi. 8.
Holy Communion under the Appearance of Bread.
The institution of Holy Communion under the appearance of bread is another proof of the tender love of Jesus for man. Had our Blessed Lord given Himself to us under the form of costly, rare food, the poor would be banished from the holy table; the poor could not receive the Bread of Angels. Now, the poor constitute the greater part of mankind redeemed by the blood of Jesus. The poor have been always the favorite children of the meek and humble Jesus. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matt. v. 3. "To preach the Gospel to the poor He hath sent Me." The Redeemer practised what He taught. His holy mother was the humble maid of Israel; his reputed father, St. Joseph, an humble artisan, When born, He had not whereon to lay His head. His thirtythree years of life were spent in poverty, and in death His pillow was the hard tree of the cross. The life and death of Jesus furnish an example to help the poor to sanctify their poverty and sufferings. He loved the poor, and hence He instituted the Blessed Eucharist under the form of bread, which is cheap and found in all countries, that the poor as well as the rich may partake of the table of the Lord. O tender mercy of Jesus, who thus enables the poor to feed on the bread. of angels
The Love of Jesus in Holy Communion Manifested by Invitations, and Promises, and Threats.
Let us now hear our Lord's sweet invitation to His heavenly banquet. Long before the coming of Christ, the inspired writers saw in spirit the Holy, Communion, and invited to the banquet, saying: "Come, eat my bread, and drink the wine I have mingled for you." Prov. ix. 5. And again: "Eat, O my friends; and be inebriated, my dearly beloved" Cant. v. 1. Holy Communion is the "cellar of wine," which inebriates the soul, and dissolves her, so to speak, in the languishing love of the Canticles. Our blessed Redeemer renews these loving, invitations:
"Come to Me," he says, "all ye that labor and are burthened, and I will refresh you." Matt. xi. 28. Yes, refresh you with meat and drink, My own Body and Blood. Jesus invites, nay, commands: "Take ye and eat: this is My Body." We read in the Old Testament that King Assuerus, to manifest the riches and glory of his kingdom, made a great feast, which lasted a hundred and four score days, and invited the nobles of his realms to partake of it. In the banquet of Holy Communion, Jesus Christ, the King of kings, manifests, not His glory and majesty, but His mercy and love. He invites not only the nobles, but the poorest of his kingdom; and the feast lasts not only a hundred and four score days, but has lasted already near nineteen hundred years, and will last to the end of time, "Behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world." Matt. xxviii. 20
The fond mother woos the child of her heart not only by invitations of love, but by promises of reward. The love of the fondest mother for her child is nothing to the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for us His children. Hence He invites us to the holy table by promises of "reward exceeding great." He says: "If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever." "He that eateth My Flesh, and drinketh My Blood, hath everlasting life; and I will raise him up on the last day. My Flesh is meat indeed, and my Blood is drink indeed. Your fathers did eat manna, and are dead. He that eateth this bread shall live forever." John vi. 52, etc. The goodness of God, infinite though it be, could promise nothing greater than the possession of Himself for all eternity in paradise as the recompense of receiving worthily Holy Communion! Who will not love to approach frequently the table of the Lord? May we all one day enjoy the promised "good things of the Lord in the land of the living."
As in the case of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, there are always found some cold, ungrateful Christians, who assist at Mass only when the threat of mortal sin speaks to their conscience, so it is also with Holy Communion. The love of Jesus in the Holy Sacrament, the sweet invitations, the amazing promises, move them little; they will not approach the holy table: of the Lord. These our Blessed Redeemer threatens to exclude forever from the kingdom of heaven. "Except you eat the flesh of the son of Man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you." Ibid. 52. These threats, these promises, these sweet invitations, all proceed from the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to unite us to Himself in the Holy Sacrament.
Union with Jesus.
"All perfection," says St. Liguori, "consists in union with God." Union with God means to have but one will with God, to will and to do what God wills, and nothing else. This union with His Heavenly Father our Blessed Lord practised and taught in life and death. "I descended from heaven not to do my own will, but to do the will of him who sent me." John vi. 38. When about to die, he prayed, "Father, if it be possible let this chalice pass from Me. Yet, let not My will but Thine be done." Matt. xxvi. And the prayer he taught us was, "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." Now the Holy Communion unites us to Jesus, to live in Him, and to do His holy will. He says, "He that eateth My flesh and drinketh My blood, abideth in me, and I in him." John vi. 57. St. Cyril of Alexandria says, "As two pieces of wax melted together become one, so we by the Holy Communion are similarly united with Jesus Christ." In Joan, c. 13. As the branch of the vine draws its sap and its life and verdure from the trunk to which it is united, so the soul receives her life, her vigor, her health, her youth, and her beauty from union with Jesus Christ in the Holy Communion. In her intense love and desire to be united to her Divine Lord in the Holy Sacrament blessed Margaret Mary Alacoque used to say, "I feel so great a desire to receive in the Holy Communion the heart of my God and the God of my heart, that to walk on burning coals, if it were necessary in order to communicate, would cost me less pain than the privation of this sacred fund." May Heaven inspire our souls with this love and desire.
The Great Effects of Holy Communion.
All the sacraments confer grace, but of all, Holy Communion is the most excellent. The other sacraments contain the gifts of God; Holy Communion, God himself. The precious effects which the Blessed Sacrament produces in the souls of those who worthily receive it are manifold.
First Effect Holy Communion Sometimes Remits even Mortal Sins.
For instance, if the communicant be unconsciously in mortal sin, and attrite only, that is having only attrition for his sin, Holy Communion infuses into the soul divine charity and restores the soul to the friendship of her God. St. Thomas, the great Doctor of the Church, says, "He who communicates, when infected with mortal sin without being aware of it, receives pardon, because if he had not been sufficiently contrite at the moment of absolution, by approaching the holy table with respect and devotion, he will receive in the Blessed Eucharist the grace of charity, which will perfect his contrition and remit his mortal sin."
Second EffectHoly Communion Remits Venial Sins.
The Council of Trent says, "The Blessed Eucharist is the antidote that delivers us from venial faults." Sess. xiii. 2. The Catechism of the same Council adds, "It is beyond all doubt, that the Eucharist remits and entirely effaces the trifling faults called venial. And it restores to the soul, by effacing them, all that she had lost by the heat of concupiscence in committing them." The very best amongst us sin very often. "The just man falls seven times!" says the Sacred Scripture. And again, "In many things we all offend." James iii. 2, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us." 1 John i. 6. Holy Communion is the sovereign remedy against all, it blots out and effaces those daily faults, and preserves the soul in youth and beauty. "This," says St. Ambrose, "is the daily bread which is eaten for the curing of our daily infirmities." "Each time," adds the Saint, "that the Blood of Jesus Christ is spilled, it flows for the remission of sins; and since I am incessantly sinning, I ought incessantly have recourse to this remedy." Venial sins cool the fervor of charity, Holy Communion warms and increases divine charity in, the soul. As corporal food restores to the body what it loses by natural heat and the exhaustion of the day, so the bread of angels gives back to the soul what it loses by daily faults and the heat of concupicence, May we be worthy to receive daily this living and life preserving Food.
Third EffectHoly Communion Remits the Temporal Punishment due to Sin.
The water of baptism sends the soul straight to heaven remit's all the temporal as well as the eternal punishment due to sin. Baptism of blood or martyrdom united with charity entitles the soul to the immediate possession of paradise.1 Perfect contrition and perfect charity remits sometimes a part, sometimes the whole, of the temporal punishment due to sin. Now, Holy Communion fervent Communion infuses into the soul perfect contrition and charity, which cancel temporal punishment, and hence free the soul, partly or altogether, from the pains of purgatory. We know not the amount of punishment in the other life our sins deserve. Our sins! so many and so manifold, sins in the very twilight of reason, sins in youth, sins in manhood, sins in old age, sins in thought, sins against our neighbor, sins against ourselves. How many sins every day, every month, every year! How many in the course of our whole lives! Count them we cannot. Do not our iniquities surpass in number the very hairs of our heads! And still, though they be pardoned by the mercy of God, the punishment due to them must be expiated either in this life or in the next. Nothing defiled can ever enter the kingdom of heaven, the last farthing must be paid, the last stain of sin must be washed out; when the soul is a thousand times whiter and purer than the very rays of the sun, then and then only is she fit to behold the infinite glory of the eternal Son of God! O God of infinite sanctity, how can we poor sinners presume to be worthy to see thee! Fervent frequent Communion will purify our souls, pay the debt due of our sins, and fit us to see and enjoy God soon after death. May Jesus grant it.
Fourth EffectHoly Communion Preserves the Soul from Mortal Sin.
"The Blessed Eucharist," says the Council of Trent (Sess. xiv. c. 2), "is an antidote by which we are preserved from mortal sin." As material food preserves the body from death, so holy Communion is the life of the soul. "Your fathers," says our blessed Redeemer, "did eat manna and are dead, if any man eat of this bread he shall live forever." "The bread that I will give you is My flesh for the life of the world." As the pure fountain refreshes the body by quenching the burning of thirst, so holy Communion, the fountain of living waters, cools and extinguishes the ardor of our passions. "If any of you," says St. Bernard, "does not experience such frequent or such violent motions of anger, of envy, or of lust, let him give thanks to the body of the Lord, which produces life in his soul." Serm. in Cana. "There is no means," adds St. Gregory the Great, "more certain or more prompt to restrain the passions, to root out bad habits, to inflame us with the love of God, than frequent Communion." "He who has a wound," remarks St. Ambrose, "seeks a remedy; our wound is sin, our remedy the heavenly and adorable Eucharist" Holy Communion is that lifepreserving tree planted in the garden of Paradise; Holy Communion is the fountain of living waters flowing in the same lovely garden; they who eat of the fruit of that tree (the body of the Lord), and who drink of the waters of that fountain (the blood of the Lord), will be preserved from the death of the soul mortal sin. May the body and blood of Jesus preserve our souls to life everlasting.
Fifth EffectHoly Communion Produces an Increase of Sanctifying Grace, Insures Heaven to us, and Inspires Courage and Strength to Fulfil all Duties.
Holy Communion as a sacrament, by virtue inherent in it, containing God Himself, infuses into the soul an increase of sanctifying grace, of divine charity, of the love of God. This is, in a word, the great and principal effect of this holy sacrament. Holy Communion insures heaven to us, it gives us a right and pledge to the enjoyment of paradise. We have for this no less an authority than our blessed Redeemer himself, who says, "If any man eat of this bread he shall live forever." And again, "He that eateth My flesh, and drinketh My blood, hath everlasting life, and I will raise him up on the last day." Writing on this subject St. Bernard exclaims, "Rejoice, ye spouses, be in transports of joy You possess the pledge, you hold the earnest of the spouse to whom you will be happily united in the celestial country." Ours then is heaven with all its glory, paradise with all its joy, God himself with all His beauty, if we but make worthy Communions. May heaven grant it.
Holy Communion inspires courage and strength for all sacrifices, courage to suffer, nay, to die for Christ. The Bread of Life gives strength to bear with patience, and even with joy, poverty, sufferings, humiliations, the most painful trials, the most cruel torments, and even martyrdom itself, for the love of God. "Nothing," says St. Jerome, "strengthens the soul so much as this bread of life;" and St. Chrysostom says, "Let us retire from this sacred table like lions. full of ardor and terrible to the devils."
What gives strength to the poor of Christ in their poverty, trials, and privations of all kinds? Ask them, and they will tell you it is the table of the Lord. What gives strength to the tender maiden in the cloister to break the strongest ties that bind the human heart to this world, strength to lead in human flesh an angel's life, courage, whether on the battle field or in the fever hospital, to live and die, for the suffering members of her Spouse? Ask her: she replies, "The bread of the elect, and wine springing forth virgins." What gives courage to the missioner to bid adieu forever to home and country to win souls to Jesus? What fills his soul with joy in the burning sands of Africa, or the wild wastes of Siberia? Ask him: he replies, "The body and blood of Jesus in the holy sacrifice of the Mass." "Even if I walk in the shadows of death, I shall fear not, because Thou art with me." What gives power to the priest of Jesus Christ to preserve himself unsullied amid the sins and abominations of a wicked world? The body and blood of Jesus Christ. What gave courage to the confessor to rejoice in his chains, and to the martyr to meet death in its fiercest shapes with serene intrepidity? The bread of angels. Fortified, nourished, animated by the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Communion, the dark dungeon, the rack, the gibbet, the amphitheatre, the redhot gridiron, the blazing pile, for them had no terror. This heavenly manna took from the tiger his fierceness, cooled the heat of the furnace, blunted the edge of the sword. O unspeakable effects of holy Communion!
Besides these general effects, how many others known only to the devout communicant? How many to God alone? "Give me a lover," says St. Augustine, "and he will understand what" I mean. "In communing with her Lord, with Jesus in her heart, the holy soul finds tears of sorrow for past sins, confidence for the future, burning love for God, courage to bear up with trials and adversities, fortitude to live, yea, and if necessary, to die for Christ, and the peace and joy of a good conscience, which is a "perpetual feast" a paradise on earth. O the sweet, inexpressible effect's of Holy Communion! May we all experience them in our souls.
Will not these holy effects induce us to frequent Communion, namely, 1, remission of mortal sin; 2, remission of venial sins; 3, remission of the temporal punishment due to sin; 4, preservation from mortal sin; 5, increase of sanctifying grace; 6, a pledge, a right to heaven; 7, courage to make any sacrifice for Christ; 8, countless secret effects known only to the pious communicant and to God will not all these induce us to frequent fervent Communion? This leads us to our next chapter Frequent Communion.
We shall conclude this chapter by a passage from a letter of St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, to Pope Cornelius, both of the third century, to show that in the early ages the Christians prepared for martyrdom by receiving holy Communion. "Let those communicate," says St. Cyprian to the Pope, "who are in the state of grace, so that those whom we invite and exhort to martyrdom may not be naked and without weapons in the combat, but armed against the assault by the body and blood of Jesus Christ; and since the Eucharist is the shield of those who partake of it, let us provide with the succor of this celestial food those whom we wish to defend against the attacks of the devil."
My soul! what infinite love of Jesus in the holy Communion, love manifested by its institution, by sweet invitations, by extraordinary promises and effects! Holy Communion is thine, the body and blood of Jesus are thine, God and heaven are thine. Express thy gratitude in the following resolution:
My loving Jesus in the holy Communion I resolve all the days of my life to appreciate and esteem, as the greatest gift of Heaven, Thy body and blood, and daily to thank Thee for this bread of angels. Dearest Lord, keep for me by Thy grace this my resolution.
1 "Injuriam facit martyri qui orat pro martyre." " He does an injury to a martyr who prays for a martyr." Innocent the Third.
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